A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma City Thunder

From the bad coaching files: Scott Brooks leaving Thabo Sefolosha in

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Scott Brooks (Oklahoma City Thunder Head Coach...

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If you were watching Game 4 of the Dallas-Oklahoma City series last night, you saw one of the biggest 4th quarter collapses in NBA Playoff history. The Thunder were leading by 15 with under 5 minutes left and lost in overtime.

The turning point was James Harden fouling out, of which Dallas went on a 17-2 run immediately following. But for me what really sunk the Thunder was Scott Brooks. Specifically, Brooks leaving Thabo Sefolosha in the game the entire last 5 minutes and overtime.

If you’ve watched the Thunder regularly, you’ll have seen the team strugging offensively with Sefolosha is in the game. The concept is simple – Since Sefolosha is a virtual non offensive threat, the man defending him usually leaves him to go play a free safety role on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Compounding this, since the C position is usually played by Kendrick Perkins or Nick Collision, the Thunder are left playing virtually 3 on 5 with Westbrook, Durant and Serge Ibaka. When 2 of 5 defenders are free to double team without repurcussions, it makes the offense disastrous. Read the rest of this entry »

The Miami Heat’s success: A basketball triumph or travesty?

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Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat, 2008

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Recently I heard a topic come up of what the Miami Heat winning the title would mean for basketball. On one hand, it’d be a sign that success in the NBA truly comes down to just having superstars – and it’d light a match to the gasoline of other stars leaving teams to team up. In an ideal world, it’d be teams like the Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls who triumph – ones that play a 5 as 1 game, where the defenders and rebounding role players mean as much as the superstars.

But I’m not so sure. Read the rest of this entry »

The difference between Mike Conley, Jr. and Russell Westbrook

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Mies-ian: Less is more... more or less

The Memphis Grizzlies just toasted Oklahoma City in Game 1 of their first round series and I believe one of the big differences was the play of Mike Conley, Jr. compared to Russell Westbrook

Now I’m in no way saying Conley is as good a player as Westbrook. Westbrook is a perenniel all-star talent and a true impact player.

However in this case I believe less is more. Conley’s job for the Grizzlies slightly resembles Rajon Rondo‘s on the champion 2008 Celtics – Running the offense without being the offense. He’s done an admirable job getting the ball to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and found the wing players OJ Mayo, Shane Battier and Tony Allen when open. On this team they don’t need Conley to do more than put up 12-15 points and 6-7 assist performance while making good decisions.

Russell Westbrook‘s role is much bigger. He has the ball the  most on the team and has been leading the team in shots more and more frequently. His usage rate in the playoffs has been much higher than teammate Kevin Durant‘s. The result is the Thunder are not playing a 5 man game offensively. It’s more of a Westbrook, Durant and then a bunch of other guys offense. James Harden in particular has been completley invisible, perhaps because of Westbrook’s ball dominance. The dominance of Westbrook and Durant in the offense has led to easy to guard predictability. Despite Westbrook being a superior player to Mike Conley, Jr., Conley’s picking spots offense led to a much more balanced, unpredictable and effective offense in the first game. Conley’s scaled back approach led to a much more cohesive team. The key to offensive success is ball movement and in game 1 it was the Grizzlies who wielded this and not the Thunder. Less ball domination by Conley meant better shots for the other players.

I picked the Thunder as my title pick pre playoffs, but I’m beginning to suspect it’s too early for them. The Thunder right now are not a 5 man team playing as one. They are not in the mindset in sacrificing shots for the fluidity of the offense – and I did not like their lack of defensive intensity in the first game. When you aren’t playing together offensively, it’s hard to expect to defensively. If the Thunder want to beat the Grizzlies, Westbrook will need to take a page out of Conley’s Game 1 performance scale back his usage for the betterment of team balance.

How the Thunder looked the 09 Blazers in the eye and said “We’re not you”

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Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunders at ...

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The Oklahoma City Thunder won 55 games this year, grabbing a division title and home court advantage for the first time in the Kevin Durant era. Two years ago Portland won 54 games and also grabbed home court in the first round for the first time in the Brandon Roy era. But, Oklahoma City came out flat with the pressure against a more experienced Denver team and fell 13 points back by the early 2nd quarter of their Game 1. Portland similarly came out flat against Houston and stood 14 pts back by the early 2nd quarter of their first game.

Yet this is where the similarities end for the two games. Oklahoma City ended up cutting the deposit to 1 by halftime on the way to a hard fought 2nd half and 4 pt win, Portland went the other direction and fell down 18 by halftime, losing by 27 when all was said and done. Read the rest of this entry »

NBA Playoff Preview – The Biggest Questions

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Twas the night before the playoffs and all through the house, not a soul was stirring, not even Eddie House…

Rajon Rondo, the 21st pick of the Boston Celtics

Is Rajon Rondo the playoffs biggest X-factor?

Matt won’t be back till next week, so you’re stuck with me for A Substitute for War’s lack of playoff preview wisdom:

First, here are my opening round predictions:

East: Chicago over Indiana in 5, Miami over Philadelphia in 6, Boston over New York in 6, Orlando over Atlanta in 5.

West: San Antonio over Memphis in 5, LA over New Orleans in 5, Portland over Dallas in 6, Oklahoma City over Denver in 5.

Since that’s over, instead of spending a couple thousand words telling you why Chicago is better than Indiana or LA is better than New Orleans, I’ll spend some time dissecting the favorites and what they need to prove to win the title:

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The Indiana Pacers rebuild: Taking advantage of draft mistakes and defensive accountability

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Indiana Pacers logo 2006–present

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One of the newcomers to the playoffs this season are the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers last made the playoffs in 2006 and have been rebuilding since. They’re back with one of the league’s youngest rosters including an all-star scoring SF in Danny Granger, a skilled 7’2 C who plays defense and in the post offensively in Roy Hibbert, an emerging starting PF and former National Player of the year in Tyler Hansbrough and a young SG with star athleticism and fluidity in Paul George. Sounds like a team who cashed in high lottery picks for years, right? Not quite.
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Ranking the NBA title favorites before the ides of March

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After a day of elite on elite action on a Sunday with a little more than a month to go in the regular season, seems like a good time to evaluate the title contenders.

First let me give an updated chart of how the elites have done against each other. (My original table from last month was in the Guts & Domination post.)


 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s ordered by the significant margin wins based on the theory that those are the truly telling results. This seems fine to me generally, but reader lpb has pointed out that Chicago’s record is heavily skewed based on what happened early in the season. In the last 3 months, the Bulls are a remarkably 10-0 against the other elites, with half of those being >5 margin wins. Damn impressive. Still not enough for me to pick them to win the title.

The Favorites, from most to least

1. Boston Celtics

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The NBA Trade Value Power Rankings – February 2011

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A couple months ago, I wrote this column hypothesizing in short that NBA teams could best have their positions in the league going forward evaluated by total trade value. Trade value encompasses all types of players and assets, just as an entrepreneur’s net worth encompasses alternate types of companies. Because types of assets are tradeable or one another if equally valued, it is the value that matters. The teams with the most net value will always be in the strongest position, as if they have the most money in their bank.

Now is a good time to rank the 30 teams in the league. For one, I plan to update the list once every 6 months – one mid-season in February and one mid-offseason in July after the draft is ideal. The former is after players have made their changes to the list, the latter after GMs have.

Secondly, the trade deadline is this week. Trade value is on the mind.

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Guts & Domination Revisited: NBA ’10-11 Elite vs Elite Records

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With 4 of the top 8 teams playing against each other today, I thought it was a good time to look at how the top teams are doing against each other.  Here they are, with the explanation and takeway conclusions below.

What I Did & Why I Did It

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Questioning whether the Spurs dominance will translate into the playoffs

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San Antonio Spurs logo

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Nearing the all-star break, the San Antonio Spurs have the best record in the league at a crisp 42-8, an astonishing 69 (!) win pace. With the Lakers having the hardest remaining schedule in the league so far it appears no-one will challenge them for the #1 seed in the West. The Spurs also have the best SRS in the league albeit it indicates the they are playing at a level below their W/L pace.

Yet I am not convinced.  I believe one of the reason even point differential can prove misleading towards projecting playoff success, is what it takes to succeed in either is often different. This appears in other sports as well. Most recently the New England Patriots put up one of the greatest offensive regular seasons ever statistically, but looked pedestrian in the playoffs offensively. In truth the Patriots lacked deep ball passing and power running dimensions to their game and the Jets exposed these weaknesses by solely covering the short passing game. The playoffs showed what regular season stats did not – the Patriots offense was flawed.

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